Recently I got into a discussion with an older friend and we both agreed that this problem many people are quick to diagnose isn’t necessarily an issue of learning less – but an issue of more to learn and using old methods of measuring learning.
Before I go further: I don’t pretend our education system is perfect. I acknowledge that some people are doing worse and I do think there may be memory issues becoming more abundant due to technology; but then again, if information isn’t used on a regular basis, the knowledge is lost, anyway. That’s the way the brain works: reiterated information creates stronger networks and nerve endings in the brain.
My point here is that we may want to rethink how we evaluate “learning.”
For me personally, I can safely say I’ve learned more in the last six months of classes than I did in two years. But does that mean I can babble off a random statistic or put into words what I’ve learned? No.
What I’m learning isn’t a specific set of information – what I’m learning in college is the ability to do research, to balance my time, and understand myself and what I can handle. That, to me, seems pretty important, and it’s not fair to say we as students don’t learn when daily living teaches us more than the average teacher.
Firstly, our beliefs and what we learn in the future build off of the things we learned in the past – even if we don’t overtly remember them. So please don’t expect a lot from underclassmen who aren’t quite at home and looking into their future. I’ve been there, and without focus, of course we won’t pay much attention.
Secondly, “learning” in college isn’t about memorizing useless facts that we won’t use later on – I, for example, will probably never use the strict definitions in a statistics course I took ever again.
Education to me is about learning basic skill sets over time – writing, basic math, and more importantly, developing a personal identity, time management skills, and a good work ethic. The latter set I mentioned are personal and for the individual, but they’re the most important to me. You can’t work or function very well without knowing yourself.
I also think it’s worth mentioning now that if students don’t care, they won’t learn. Plain and simple. A lot of people aren’t motivated because they don’t know what they want or they’re scared of the future.
The issue of focusing people on wanting to learn is a separate issue, but my basic grasp on psychology lets me understand that if someone doesn’t care, they won’t learn. Not every student is at college to waste time and party; I certainly am not. But I think we all know people who floated through their education not caring and not learning.
So while I agree that maybe memory stands to improve and sure, some people really aren’t learning? Maybe the definition of learning is just too narrow and people need to rethink what education means in the long run. It isn’t just about storing facts and data. It’s about life skills.